The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts receives numerous emails and social media messages from the public each day. Most are benign requests for information or clarification. Some are complaints about the court system, often about a perceived injustice.
But the email that came in on November 17, 2019, and a Facebook message sent three days later were different. These were threats, not complaints. Serious threats to kill judges, court employees, and people in courthouses.
The threats were so chilling and real they demanded action.
The employees involved followed proper protocol. Supervisors were notified, who then reached out to the Supreme Court Marshals Office. Deputy Marshal Dean Caputo investigated and coordinated with state and federal agencies.
The investigators tracked the messages to Warren County, New York. Frederick Eli Knapp of Pottersville, New York, was arrested, and in May 2020 was indicted by a grand jury in Wake County for transmitting threatening communications in interstate commerce.
On Friday, April 2, Knapp was sentenced to 24 months in prison for interstate transmission of threats to injure another person. United States District Judge Mae A. D’Agostino also imposed a three-year term of supervised release, which will start after Knapp’s release from prison.
“I would like to commend the thoughtfulness of the AOC employee who forwarded the email with threats to the Supreme Court Marshals Office, which in turn referred it to the proper law-enforcement agencies that were able to secure an indictment,” NCAOC Director Judge Andrew Heath said. “This is a great story of judicial employees looking out for each other and cooperating with law enforcement, who were able to eliminate the threat.”
The sentencing announcement was made in Albany, New York, by acting U.S. Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon, along with G. Norman Acker, III, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina; William T. Bowman, marshal of the Supreme Court of North Carolina; FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Wells in the Charlotte Field Office; and Chief R.E. “Chip” Hawley of the North Carolina State Capitol Police Department.